Kevin Swains
Travel Website
This is Kev's Travel Blog
K2 Trek-2 

Porters heading towards Concordia
Trangos in the background 

Porters Rucksacks.
Up to 30Kg on their shoulders often supported with only thin rope 

Dinner in our mess tent on Concordia (4900m-ish)
K2 in the background 

Donkey joining in the climbing at K2 basecamp

Porters crossing the glacier at Concordia 
Monday 14th July

I'm pretty knackered from the previous days antics. I may have been demolishing my way up the mountain just like I did Gokyo Ri but I also have the same next day after effects just like Gokyo Ri....I'm bloody pukkered!
We only have around 12Km and a few hunji metres climb but from the off I'm slow and generally keep to the back of the pack.
Today is a big day for a few reasons. Firstly we start to walk on the hugely big Baltoro Glacier for the first time, which we will follow all the way to Concordia four days trek away and secondly because we pass by the mighty rock monoliths of the Trango Towers. The only problem is the weather. The towers are covered in cloud to our left and we keep getting a sprinkle of rain on us. The glacier is a dirty black pile of rock with hardly any ice visible. The volume of the rock is however impressive with massive boulders lifted to the surface of the glacier.
As we approach the Trango Towers the group begin the get excited, being rock climbing folk, but only quick glimpses are possible through the clouds.
We set up camp right below the Trango Tower, just across the glacier as the rain begins and the river begins to flow through the camp.
It's the first time we don't have plastic porta loos at the camp site but we do have a tent toilet, ordered by the Slovenians. It may be a bit posh but it's a good idea to reduce shit around the camp site since we are doing our business in a pit.
As night falls blue sky can be seen but we have to wait till tomorrow to see what the new day brings.

Tuesday 15th July

At 5.30am a cup of tea arrives at my tent as per usual. The tea is a wake up call. Drink tea, get my shit packed and get out of the tent so the porters can pack up and piss off. We aim to be moving by 7am.
Breakfast usually consists of unlimited tea and coffee, eggs, cornflakes, porridge, hot milk, chapattis and jam and peanut butter. There's no worry about going hungry on this trek. The price is high but it's good to pay the money and pig out!
As for the weather....picture perfect. We all climb out from our tents in awe and begin to snap away like crazy Japanese. The towers are impressive on their own but stack them together and recount the legends set here from climbing to base jumping and you really have a spectacular playground right in the front of your eyes.
We stand together trying to work out which peak is which. The locals put us right. It doesn't really matter which is what but we need to know for self education. I want to fix this view in my mind forever so I can re-live this moment the next time I watch National Geographic or the Discovery Channel.
With only three or so hours to walk on the glacier we are treated to compulsive views all the way. To our left, the Trangos which  take away from the monotony of the glacier.
We arrive at a lush hillside campsite smack bang across from the Trango Cathedral Tower, as vertically impressive as it is wide with a severe sheer drop at it's front.
We all sit on a huge boulder, awe inspired at the sight. I know that I never expected to see the Trangos up close and judging by the look on everyone elses faces neither did they!
Having arrived early we sit in the mess tent with the front door fully rolled up to provide a perfect view of the mountains while drinking more tea and’s tough!

Wednesday 16th July

It's been a hard night with a painful gut problem with the usual wind from both ends. It's gets so bad that I take medicine at 3.30am while being rather out of it and wake at 5.30am very weak indeed.
I'd been gradually weakening and becoming increasingly windy the previous day, with around five number twos and ten pee stops and now I'm badly dehydrated having visited the toilet several times already.
I start another day back on the Baltoro glacier, initially at a good pace but soon I get massive stomach cramps which knock me back to a snails pace. It feels like I've been held by two guys while a third hammers me just below the rib cage.
The Baltoro is now changing, if only a little. The water running through the glacier is now almost crystal clear and more and more ice is becoming visible through the rubble.
It's easy going following the gently sloping glacier looking around at the impressive mountains. The only difficulty is taking in the scenery while watching ones steps while walking over loose rocks. Indeed sometimes we are all so preoccupied with looking at our feet we almost miss some of the mountains.
If the last two days have been look left days, then today is definitely eyes right day. The whole ridge belongs to Mashabrum Mountain with its steep snow covered pyramid peak and snow covered sides. I think it's in the high 7000m category but looks like a challenging piece of rock to conquer.
We lunch on the glacier near pure white, high volume ice out crops, icebergs flowing southwards in a sea of scree, their steep sides patterned with beautiful ice grain. It's a treat to stop here. It's a shame about the amount of litter left behind by many trekking expeditions like our own. After lunch we continue another two hours to our camp passing by more and more ice out crops.
We are now closing in on our intended destination, Concordia and Gashabrum 4 is standing guardian like at the end of the Baltoro, tomorrows destination and Broad Peak at over 8000m is visible to it's left. We are already overwhelmed by mammoth peaks that leave me in awe at nature and to think the best is still to come.
Tonights camp at Goro 2 is on the glacier and while there is plenty of space there is little room for pitching tents.
Goro means small rocks, of which there is obviously a few hundred thousand tones. The tents are sat on these stones and directly underneath is the glacier. The weather is perfect, although a little hot in the high altitude sun but things should drop to below freezing as soon as the sun slips behind the Trangos.
I take out my MP3 player and take a stroll along the undulating glacier towards Mashabrum.
As I crest a hump of rubble I'm blown away by what I see. Not only is Mashabrum staring down at me slightly to my right with it's many auxiliary peaks but slap bang in the front of me is some mountain of whose name I have no idea. It's a mountain of a mountain, wide and steep with near vertical walls, so steep that the snow barely sticks and at the base of all this more glacial icebergs with clear water streams between them carving out a toboggan run as the flow.
I'm listening to the Beatles when Let it Be starts. For me it's a superlative song that matches singer with words with music so perfectly, good for sorrow, good for joy. The intro starts before Macca kicks in with the vocals. We sing along together as I walk along, turning as I go taking it all in, it's way too much and tears roll down my cheeks.
I return to my tent and start typing while looking out of my half open tent door, still with the same mountain view outside. I watch as porters sit around talking, admiring the mountains, squinting, trying to see Ibex on far away hills, hand in hand and arm over shoulders, affection between the boys. Their homes for tonight being plastic sheets over rock walls and ten metres away from my tent a large bottle of Pepsi sits atop a small mound tempting the passing trekkers.

Thursday 17th July Trek to Goro 2

At 2am I swap medications for my dodgy gut as I've had little sleep and hope that I've made the right decision. It's too uncomfortable as it is. My gut containing an impressive amount of gas and is suitably inflated.
At 6am my tea arrives, now with one sugar pre mixed.
It's hard to say how I feel until I start walking although I manage to eat only a little as the stomach cramps return.
I only have a short walk ahead of me and can see the destination at the base of Gashabrum 4.
It takes me four hours to reach Concordia, much of the time looking at my feet and belching. My guts are still giving me pain in a roller coaster fashion. When things are good I push on hard but then the belly swells and ear piercing burps shoot from my mouth followed by loud sigh of relief. It's an uncomfortable four hours but things seem to be calming down as I arrive at Concordia.
Again we camp on the glacier, much the same as the previous night.
Concordia is a busy old place being at the terminus of the Baltoro glacier and where many treks terminate. There are several permanent camps and store tents for larger trekking companies and expeditions.
Our camp is ready by the time I arrive. For all intents and purposes it's pretty dirty being littered with rusty tin cans and the chard remains of plastic bottles and bags. It would be so simple to make one place to burn all the access junk and cover it over at the end of the season....maybe next year.
A quick walk in any direction also leads to porters toilet areas. Again it would be so simple to make toilet areas away from the drinking water supply.
At Concordia the glacier is wide being at the junction of the Goodwin Austin and the Upper Baltoro Glacier and surprisingly a calm junction given the size of the meeting glaciers. It's still full of rubble on ice and of course litter.
Concordia is famed for it's collection of mountains. Nowhere in the world is there a denser collection of mighty rocks in a place this size. As I write I am surrounded by a wall of mountains, commonly known as the thrown of the gods. To my left is Marble Peak, with its multi coloured rocks. Then the reason most people are here, K2 (8611m)to the west looking remarkably calm. Neighboring K2 is Broad Peak at 8047m, so called because of it's broad span. We can see climbers on the slopes of Broad Peak coming or going from camp 3. Moving on clockwise is Gashabrum 4 at 7925m and steep and in your face impressive. Then in the near distance to the East is Baltoro Kangri, holding onto its snow at over 7000m, surrounded by three other peaks at 7000m plus. Then to cap it all off, blocked by these mountains is Gashabrum 1 and 2 at 8068m and 8035m. The list goes on. Google <worlds tallest mountains> or Google Earth <Concordia-Pakistan> and you'll end up right where I am now.
I was taking an afternoon nap when my tent starts to shake. It's the kitchen boy letting me know that dinner is ready and I sit down to a feast of tomato soup, chips, pasta and cheese sauce, potato and egg curry and even baked beans. Then to top it all for desert we get egg custard and jelly, and all with K2 in the background!

Friday 18th July Trek to K2 Base Camp 5135m

Four days of walking means another rest day for the porters and we all have the chance of trekking up to K2 basecamp and passing by Broad Peak base camp on the way and all of us obviously choose to do so with the exception of Janette, our camp doctor whose feeling ill. Talking of which, for the last two nights I've taken anti vomit pills as I've had the worst gut pain for the last few days and it's the only way that I can get any sleep and none of the drug cocktails that I've self prescribed has worked so this morning I went to see Janette only to find that she is in a worse condition as me, so I leave her be and move onto another batch of drugs and I'm not sure when I wake if I can even manage a even few hours walking.
After a light breakfast with gurgling stomach I decide to give it a go and we set off across a feaces filled moraine that constantly makes me gup and wanting to throw up. We actually only cross half of the wide glacier that leads us onto the medial moraine (rubble filled mid section) that is easier to walk on.
The clouds are out in force and block all what is important about K2, all of it. We are walking west and should have this almighty piece of rock dominating our every thought and step, but instead it's been overtaken by cloud.
To our right, or north we have Broad Peak at 8047m with well over half visible and soon we see the long line of tents that make up the base camp area. Their presence is given away by charred garbage and piles of rusty tin cans.
We pass a few camps before heading down to an American camp of which is run by Karukuram Magic Mountains, our trekking outfit
so we call in for a cuppa, the three climbers being up on the mountain, a fourth helicoptered off with a broken leg a few weeks earlier.
Their base camp set up is basically the same as ours with a mess tent, kitchen and toilet tent but with sponsorship banners hanging on the walls and solar panels outside to charge the walkie talkies. It's an interesting stop, just to be `in the thick of it' even if nothing is actually happening.
With full tanks we move off towards K2 passing more base camps. There must be around seven expeditions on Broad Peak and using the binoculars can see camp one, two and three, with over ten tents huddled together ready for the progressive attack on the summit. It's interesting to see the high camps with people going up and people coming down, roped up on the steep slopes
and not knowing what the conditions are like up there. When it's still at this altitude, it can be full on storms up there and despite the amount of people on the mountain no one has summited in the last two weeks.
We push on towards K2, now not much more than a mass of cloud. Still walking on the medial moraine of the glacier the only dirty part of otherwise white glacier. These ribs give the glaciers an illusion of super highways when at an elevated level.
Either side of us the white glacier is becoming more and more choppy and now at the head of the glacier only clear water streams run through the melting surface of the glacier.
As we hit the foot of K2, passing by a memorial to lost climbers on the far side of the glacier things look impressive, even if K2 is only showing us its feet. We are now over 5000m altitude and bare right towards an impressive assortment of tents at the basecamp. We approach the first one following a small stream to our right to see two wooden models spinning in the stream powered by the water. The first is a simple water wheel and the second is an aero plane made by the Pakistani chef of an Italian expedition. It's a nice treat to see at such a place.
Talking of which....the Italian guy who is climbing will have climbed all fourteen 8000+M mountains if he knocks off K2, so obviously he is one of the worlds top mountain climbers and as such has a full size sprung bed in his own tent at base's that for luxury?
We hover around the basecamp doing the picture shoot while our guide talks to the Pakistanis running the base camps who must get incredibly bored on their lonesome while the team is away climbing and they have to sit by the radio.
There is also a smattering of Nepali faces around the place and I guess many teams bring their own teams of high altitude porters from Nepal to improve their chances of summiting the mountain.
Having taken many tent pictures but none of the mountain we turn around and head off back to Concordia and I get special permission to break ranks and make my own way back.
I begin at a high pace across the rocks. I'm still wanting to improve my speed and balance while trekking as I consider balance the most important part of trekking and the best way to improve speed and safety. I'm good but quite away behind the porters, but practice makes perfect, and I have a long time to practice.
My aim is to make it back to Concordia in 2.5 to 3Hrs and after one hour I reach Broadpeak basecamp, just as the rain begins to fall and the temperature drops. I slow down as the rocks become slippery. Soon I'm wanting to cross the glacier and follow two locals with a horse. By now I'm knackered and struggling over the glacier but have it easy compared to the horse on ice. As always the locals offer to carry my bag and even let me ride the horse.
I make it in 2hrs and 4mins.
Back at Concordia it's pretty miserable with the rain, yet the porters are still hunkered together under their plastic sheets singing and playing drums.
I sip a hot chocolate and eat biscuits before hitting the sack for a power snooze.

Saturday 19th July  Concordia to Ali Camp 5010m

Feeling weak for a change I eat little for breakfast before we move onto another glacier for or trek to Alicamp. Today is the first time that we have had special orders to stick together as the glacier can be difficult to navigate. The porters leave just in front of us unusually all together and stop just as they hit the glacier. They sit and one porter calls out some chant to which all the others reply in unison. It reminds me of the stand off in Zula, but without the spears!
They move on over the glacier at speed. It's steep and slippery and we struggle to make our way down the far side. It's only when I am down the other side that I can surmise that they must have just said some kind of prayer and needed it.
We also have a new guide with us today. I mountain of a man named Haji. Haji is tall with a thick beard, broad shoulders and looks like he'd have problems fitting through most doorways and could even be mistaken for the yeti. He's part of our rescue team for the Gondagoro Pass and just glancing at him makes one feel reassured that he's on our side, capable of picking up two injured people, sticking one under each arm and running then down the mountain. A mountain ambulance kind of.
We follow the glacier upwards climbing steadily. As we climb the glaciers take on the look of super highways, speeding from mountain to mountain. I wish I was high up a mountain looking down at this as it looks spectacular....maybe next time?
The melting top layer of the glacier allows for a firm grip underfoot and each step gives a clean and crisp crack, the sound soon embedded into ones head along with the deep breathing.
At lunch time we stop, slap bang in the middle of the glacier. It's yet another sublime chai spot. This time the porters are eating next to us and I guess that the ones who agree to cross the Gondagoro deserve special treatment.
Although feeling weak I plough through a fair bit of food knowing that I will need the energy tomorrow.
We move off, continuing up the wide glacier to Alicamp where we arrive to cloudy skies. Ali Camp will be our first and only sleep above 5000m and is just to the side of the glacier. It is named after the man who first crossed the Gondogoro Pass in 1986. Again the camp site is a dream on the outside bend of the highway that must be over 1Km wide at this point and still sweeping around to Chogalisa mountain that is barely visible in the distance due to low cloud and opposite, a sheer mountain face thick with slumping snow forcing its way into the glacier.
In Alicamp we have to sort out our gear ready for an early start at 1am the next day and weigh the porter’s bags as regulations state that they cannot carry more than 20Kg over the pass, and rightly so.
The Slovenians take out their `special' climbing gear and I'm left speechless by the shit they have in their bags. All of a sudden I've been transported into a futuristic world of the climbing fraternity. Truly impressive plastic climbing boots that look as if they are from Wallace and Grommits The Wrong Trousers and will stick to any surface including walking upside down with a loud thunk with each step and ropes, harnesses, carabineers and stuff of what I have no idea.
A few of the Slovenians come to check out my gear of which consists of an ice axe and a tiny pair of crampons both of which I bought off eBay just before I left. They look at my crampons in disbelief having only four tiny spikes that fit under my instep as opposed to ten or twelve fierce looking spikes on the Slovenians that are perfect to aerate your garden. Then the next question is what boots am I attaching then to. Well these ones of course, to which a shocked look crosses their faces and discussions pass through the camp.
At this point I'm in more disbelief that before. I'm looking at the porters and what they have to cross the pass in and what they will be carrying and to say it's basic is an understatement. My point is that many more porters cross the pass then whities so what the porters use must be tried and tested and very reliable. Then I look at what I have, Gore-Tex shoes, merino wool socks, Gore-Tex suit, the warmest down jacket, gloves and thermals. The list goes on. I'm wondering what certain members are looking at because I know that I am well prepared, the fittest here, the best acclimitised and have a superb knowledge of mountains like this, but the one thing I don't have is plastic boots, a colourful Gore-Tex and a mountaineering club membership!
Now, me being me and now and then having an out of control competitive spirit thrives on these situations and each time doubts are cast in my direction the more I am driven into smashing them on the Gondogoro. When my stubbornness and competitive spirit combine there is simply no stopping me, it's my greatest asset!
Now I'm in competitive mode I have to start taking care of myself and take a nap outside sheltered by stone walls. I'm feeling really weak and not too confident. I sleep a little but at over 5000m keep waking with a thumping heart, failing to breath correctly, a common problem at this altitude. I contemplate everything in thirty seconds and decide to hit the Cipro as a last resort reasoning that I have some kind of infection and even if not it'll get me over the Gondogoro and indeed I pick up quickly.
At 5.30pm Mohamed the guide comes over along with two Slovenians to see how I am. Mohamed realizes that I'm outside sleeping because I get two hours extra sleep over he others who are in the mess tent gabbering when they should be resting.
We have no tents today and will all sleep in the mess tent tonight to allow us a speedy departure.
Anyway....the doubting Thomas's question my shoes and my crampons again in the front of Mohamed which really gauls me, to which Mohamed replies `I think Kevin can cross the pass even without crampons'. At last a free thinker who can knows what’s possible and I give him the thumbs up without looking at him. I'm really expecting the pass to be easy and can't believe how people can build it up so much. It's only around 900m climb from Ali Camp and we must chew up over 200m on the march up there.